Supes Vote Next Week on Wiener’s Backup Transportation Funding Measure

Supervisors are expected to vote next week on Supervisor Scott Wiener’s backup plan for transportation funding — a charter amendment that, with voter approval, would increase the share of the city’s general fund that gets allocated to Muni, pedestrian safety, and bike infrastructure. That share would be tied to the city’s growing population.

Supervisor Scott Wiener. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Wiener introduced the measure as a safeguard that would increase transportation funding even if Mayor Ed Lee dropped his plan to put a vehicle license fee increase on the ballot. Lee subsequently did drop his support in June, at least until the 2016 election, so Wiener proposed his stop-gap measure. The legislation includes a provision that would allow the mayor to remove the charter amendment if the vehicle license fee increase is passed in 2016, according to Wiener.

“We are a growing city. We’ve grown by 85,000 people since 2003… and we have not made the investments we need to make sure our transportation system, particularly Muni, keeps up,” Wiener said at a committee meeting last week. “This will help bridge the gap.”

The vehicle license fee increase would have generated about $33 million per year for the SFMTA. The agency’s two-year budget assumed its passage in 2014, along with a $500 million general obligation bond for transportation that supervisors unanimously approved for the ballot yesterday.

Currently, Muni gets about $232 million in general funds annually. If approved, Wiener’s charter amendment would provide a $23 million budget boost in the first year, retroactively accounting for the last ten years of population growth. Seventy-five percent of the new funds would go to Muni, and 25 percent to “street safety measures,” according to Wiener.

“Muni’s been severely underfunded for years,” said Ilyse Magy of the SF Transit Riders Union, which has applauded Wiener’s measure. “It’s essential that measures based on alternative funding strategies be put into place,” she said, noting that Mayor Lee also cut $11 million annually from Muni operations by repealing Sunday parking meters.

It’s unclear if Wiener’s measure has a majority of support from other supervisors. At last week’s Rules Committee hearing, Supervisor David Campos said he’d support the measure, although he urged reforms to the SFMTA’s “governance structure” to make the agency’s Board of Directors “more accountable to the ridership.” He didn’t specify which of the SFMTA Board’s policies he was referring to.

“Unless, I believe, we are able to make a convincing case on that point, these funding measures are going to be challenging to pass,” said Campos. “Money is an important part of the solution, but you can throw all the money in the world at Muni. Unless you change how this agency is managed and how it’s governed, and the lack of accountability that it has, things are not going to change dramatically.”

Supervisor Katy Tang and Norman Yee said they were “uncomfortable” with the measure, because it would siphon off general funds that could be used for other city services. They both still voted to pass it on to the full board, although without a recommendation for which way to vote next Tuesday.

“If voters are faced with two measures that they could see as both funding transportation, I can see some confusion there,” said Tang. “Not to knock the fact that we absolutely have not invested enough in our transportation infrastructure, and I completely agree that we need to do more.”

  • Supervisor Katy Tang and Norman Yee said they were “uncomfortable” with
    the measure, because it would siphon off general funds that could be
    used for other city services.

    That’s never stopped city agencies from siphoning money back from Muni before.

  • vcs

    Say what you want about Wiener in general. But in the twenty+ years I’ve lived in this city, he is the only politician who actually seems to understand and wants to address the real problems of the Muni system. Everyone else has talked-the-talk but in the end they only see Muni as a $$$$ conduit to their special-interest kickback group.

    Just to reinforce the Wiener quote in the article:

    “Money is an important part of the solution, but you can throw all the money in the world at Muni. Unless you change how this agency is managed and how it’s governed, and the lack of accountability that it has, things are not going to change dramatically.”

    That is very true but Streetsblog and “urbanists” seem to spend a lot of effort supporting the status-quo shitty transit because “bike lanes”. Wiener is rightfully calling out MTA management and unions because they have become the enemy of good transit. Their defenders are equally enemies of the people.

    When Wiener is elected mayor, some of you “streetsblog” people will be surprised, but you really shouldn’t be. The politician who actually manages to fix Muni deserves a statute in front of City Hall.

    (disclaimer: just some nobody with no involvement in politics who takes the metro.)

  • murphstahoe

    That is very true but Streetsblog and “urbanists” seem to spend a lot of
    effort supporting the status-quo shitty transit because “bike lanes”.

    What?

  • Hi vcs,

    You’ve left a few comments recently saying that Streetsblog has certain specific positions which we have never stated. It’s not clear whether your referring specifically to us as an organization or the commenters you see as representing our positions (which need to be distinguished). But I’d like to ask that you speak for yourself, or if you’re addressing certain statements or positions, be specific in who said what. From our end, in articles like these we’re mostly just trying to report on what’s going on at City Hall, and certainly not “supporting the status-quo shitty transit.”

    Also, Campos said that quote you cited, not Wiener. I’ll add a repeat of his name in there to make it clearer.

    – Aaron

  • Jesse

    She’s what? Uncomfortable with the measure because it might put more general fund money towards public transit that benefits… the public?

  • vcs

    Hi Aaron,

    Streetsblog has posted recent articles about their origins etc., If there any confusions about your current positions it might be because you have not articulated them well. When the TWU walked out, you seemed to have no concern about the horribly negative effect on actual transit riders but instead aimed invective at the mayor. (Whom I am not a fan of, for the record.) Instead you leaned heavily on the “transit riders union” which is allegedly a TWU puppet organization. In any case, you are clearly aligned with the “progressive party” in SF and to some extent I believe you and the commenters here may have compromised “transit first” principles to that end.

    Judging from the editorials and commentary here, the “Streetsblog” position is the following:
    (1) Muni is (understated) not great, BUT
    (2) We don’t really want to criticize MTA
    (3) We don’t really want to criticize the union
    (4) So let’s build bike lanes and then everyone healthy enough can avoid our obvious political clusterfuck.
    (5) Something about the spring break I spent in Amsterdam.

    The net effect is a really depressing outcome where transit stays pleb-tier forever.

    Also you must have altered your article, because that quote was a direct copy-paste. In any case I support Campos’ or any other politician sentiment there, but I doubt he will run for election on Muni.

    Like I said, I’m a nobody who isn’t working for anyone except my own greater good. But I understand we need someone who transcends the the current political stalemate here and actually makes San Francisco transit good. Whoever that is. Hopefully your editorial positions will recognize this. Thanks.

  • Mario Tanev

    HUH?

  • vcs

    Unfortunately a number people have posted that more-or-less explicitly here. “We can’t fix really Muni so let’s build bike lanes to improve mobility”.

    It might just be a means-to-an-end, but one of these things is not like the other, one of these things is not the same.

    In any case, what’s the plan to fix Muni? ….

  • vcs

    Hi Mario, ride Muni Metro for a while and then you will understand why you are so confused.

  • Wow, some interesting theories there. Well, as long as you keep the distinction between your perceptions and what people are actually saying.

  • vcs

    Aaron, the main reason I check your blog is to call out anti-transit, anti-pedestrian positions. Thanks to you and your commenters for keeping me entertained 🙂

  • You have a lot of criticism to dish out so I’m sure you’re a wealth of knowledge when it comes to actually fixing problems. We’re all ears, do tell us how you would fix it!

  • @vcs regular commenters on this blog routinely point out the need for fixing Muni, including criticism of management and the union. No idea where you get your highly selective impression otherwise.

    More to the point, this group is one of the few that calls out the major reason Muni has such poor performance: Private automobiles double-parking; private automobiles clogging transit lanes; private automobiles blocking intersections. You seem to think a management overhaul would somehow make all those private automobiles vaporize?

    Your “because “bike lanes” remark is pathetic. The City spends a tiny fraction of the overall transit budget on bike lanes and bike infrastructure in general.

    Start posting with some logic-based reasoning, and maybe you’ll be taken more seriously and not called out for your shrill and ignorant comments.

  • Prinzrob

    Are we reading the same article? To me this seems to be a very straight-forward reporting of quotes and facts, with very little editorializing. In what way does this article depict Wiener unfairly?

    (disclaimer: just an employee at a local bike coalition who walks and takes transit for about half of his trips, and spends more time in his own neighborhood on ped/transit issues than bike stuff)

  • vcs

    Just for the record it is not a criticism of bike lanes.

    However, we are going to increase the population of SF to over 1 million people, and there seems to be no real plans in place to improve mobility, other than bike lanes and relatively minor tweaks to muni routes.

  • murphstahoe

    The simplest way to get MUNI moving would be initiate draconian enforcement of double parking, triple parking rates and implement congestion pricing, in order to dramatically reduce the amount of driving in the city, opening the lanes for MUNI.

    Think we can pull that off?

    OK, maybe we’ll put in some bike lanes and maybe we can increase the bike share from 3% to 5% and hopefully that will open the roads up.

  • murphstahoe

    get it straight. We are not anti-transit. We are anti-car! VIVE LE REVOLUCION! WAR ON CARS!

  • murphstahoe

    word.

    Frankly, when I was in SF I spent very little time on bike stuff because I could write a few checks and Leah and Co. would do the needful, and I’d show up to a meeting or whatever if they wanted people.

    Meanwhile I spent endless hours advocating for better service on Caltrain (not just the bike component, which frankly is pro-transit because the bike carriage on Caltrain was responsible for a huge ridership boost which has provided the revenue that has driven service). I worked on campaigns for ballot measures. etc… etc… etc…

    These things are all synergistic. No MUNI passenger ever ran over a cyclist or a pedestrian. And while most of the short trips that MUNI would target are much simpler on a bike for anyone who rides, there is always the night out on the town or to a place where bike parking is useless.

    If I were the Mayor the #1/2/3 priorities would be the TEP.

  • murphstahoe

    It’s not the more money towards public transit, it’s because that implies less money for something else. This is why the tough votes are going to be “The Progressives”.

  • Jesse

    Understood – it seems weird to me that this wouldn’t be at the forefront of their agendas, seeing that transit affects our quality of life, health, and economic prosperity. I’d be hard pressed to see what should be more of a priority, but then again I’m not trying to keep my seat as a supervisor.

  • djconnel

    The hard sell is that money -> quality with MUNI. Common perception is it’s a fiscal analog of a space-time singularity. Many of the things MUNI could do to improve service, like streamlining routes presently designed with timely transportation as a low priority, comprehensive coverage as a high priority, face political more than financial challenges.

  • murphstahoe

    but it’s an easy sell that money -> quality with homeless programs?

  • djconnel

    Of course not. The only exemptions from sceptism seem to be fire department, water quality, libraries, and seismic retrofitting, Not even education is spared.

  • vcs

    +1 to murphs for being an honest individual.

    Now if we could just why cars are making the Muni Subway a totally shitty transit experience we might be onto something.

    Unfortunately for yous, the reason has nothing to do with cars.

  • vcs

    “Draconian” double parking enforcement implies a police state.

    When the cops aren’t ticketing double-parkers, they will be citing your ass for ‘idaho stopping” through intersections or jaywalking.

    You really do not not not not want this. You really don’t.

    I think you haven’t not thought through on any level because the heavy-enforcement system you propose would be more punitive towards the “less privileged” classes than it would the evil double-parkers.

    Cyclists currently live in a Grey-Area of traffic protocol and have the most to lose from your police-centric proposal. Think for a bit and stop asking form more enforcement and let’s fix the infrastructure to prevent these conflicts in the first place.

  • murphstahoe

    I don’t buy your comparison. Right now we target drunk driving pretty heavily, but speeding and rolling right turns on red, not so much.

    Even in the realm of parking, certain parking offenses are met with heavy enforcement – park in front of a someone’s garage and you’ll get towed away – so people don’t park in front of a garage. Is that a police state? I think it is completely possible to shift the thinking on double parking to that being a *specific* offense that is societially frowned upon.

    Aside from the fact that cops don’t ticket double parkers – PCOs ticket double parkers, and they can’t cite my ass for any bike offense. Except maybe parking my bike in a “car spot”- that’s the next step towards communism.

  • murphstahoe

    Hmm. Let me think about that.

    http://sfist.com/2013/06/30/another_car_tries_to_drive_into_mun.php

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/muni-n-judah-train-strikes-car-that-ran-stop-sign/Content?oid=2170680

    These “outliers” that blow up the MUNI Subway aren’t that uncommon. Visit West Portal Ave some time and watch how many trains spend an extra light cycle to get into the tunnel because of someone’s car. Or double parked cars on the J tracks in Noe.

  • vcs

    MTA seems happy to hand out tickets for not blocking your wheels or being six inches into a red zone or any number of other minor offenses. So I am very skeptical of your insinuation they are letting any double-parkers off the hook.

    (In fact, my citycarshare was ticketed when I DPed on my small sidestreet to unload groceries.)

    So while I agree that we need education and a change in societal attitudes, I don’t see how SF could realistically enforce parking offenses any more than they already are without some orwellian camera system or something.

  • coolbabybookworm

    As Murph pointed out, parking enforcement isn’t done by police, it’s done by SFMTA. Congestion pricing, and parking rates are also not done or regulated by the police, but the SFMTA. The only thing cops would help with is keeping cars out of transit only lanes as that is a moving violation and therefore their purview and not PCOs, but that could potentially be changed at a legislative level I think.

    We already live in a police state, it’s just one that doesn’t see double parking as an issue worthy of targeting.

  • murphstahoe

    In fact, my citycarshare was ticketed when I DPed on my small sidestreet to unload groceries.

    You’ve certainly confirmed my theory that people don’t think double parking is a big deal.

  • vcs

    But it wasn’t a big deal.

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